Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Religion and an inverse correlation to prosperity...

Is Belief in God Hurting America? | | AlterNet
Using existing data, Paul combined 25 indicators of societal and economic stability — things like crime, suicide, drug use, incarceration, unemployment, income, abortion and public corruption — to score each country using what he calls the "successful societies scale." He also scored countries on their degree of religiosity, as determined by such measures as church attendance, belief in a creator deity and acceptance of Bible literalism.

Comparing the two scores, he found, with little exception, that the least religious countries enjoyed the most prosperity. Of particular note, the U.S. holds the distinction of most religious and least prosperous among the 17 countries included in the study, ranking last in 14 of the 25 socioeconomic measures.
The author notes that the study doesn't demonstrate causeality, just a correlation. However, he points out what may be the cause:
"Popular religion," Paul proposes, "is a coping mechanism for the anxieties of a dysfunctional social and economic environment." ...
While possibly true, religion also serves to blunt the very progress that would lead to more societal well being. Look at the Christian Right's opposition to universal health care and government reform of the financial sector: both areas of reform that are likely to help/protect the less fortunate in our society. These are areas of reform you'd think the church would support. Why don't they?
In his paper, Paul writes of an "antagonistic relationship between better socioeconomic conditions and intense popular faith" derived from fear that greater prosperity will loosen the grip of religion. ... These groups have a lot to lose in these kinds of debates. When you adopt progressive policy reforms," Paul says, "in the long run, religion is bound to be road kill."

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Conservatism in America... screwed

Poll: Limbaugh is most influential conservative - Yahoo! News
By a wide margin, Americans consider Rush Limbaugh the nation's most influential conservative voice.

Those are the results of a poll conducted by "60 Minutes" and Vanity Fair magazine and issued Sunday. The radio host was picked by 26 percent of those who responded, followed by Fox News Channel's Glenn Beck at 11 percent. Actual politicians — former Vice President Dick Cheney and former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin — were the choice of 10 percent each.
If conservatives actually consider these idiots 'their voice' -- the movement is truly screwed: it has NO intellectual underpinnings. It's based completely on made-up-shit and crazy, previously discredited ideas.

I never thought I'd say this: I long for a real conservative leader.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Beware the military industrial complex...

Wasteful Defense Spending Is a Clear and Present Danger - WSJ.com
When John McCain was shot down over Hanoi in 1967, he was flying an A4 Skyhawk. That jet cost $860,000.

Inflation has risen by 700% since then. So Mr. McCain's A4 cost $6.1 million in 2008 dollars. Applying a generous factor of three for technological improvements, the price for a 2008 Navy F18 fighter should be about $18 million. Instead, we are paying about $90 million for each new fighter. As a result, the Navy cannot buy sufficient numbers. This is disarmament without a treaty.

Having working in and around big defense contractors for more than 20 years I can say I fully agree with the former SECNAV's evaluation: the cosy relationship between the military, supplies and the civilans working in the pentagon has turned what should be a competitive market into a good ole boys network where BIG defense companies routinely milk money out of a contact for 2-3 or MORE years beyond it's orginal cost/schedule. 50-100% cost overruns are not uncommon.

In fact, I worked on one defense project back in the late '90's that was supposed to be about 3 years long and demonstrate, on orbit, new sensing and tracking technologies. Ten years later I know the program was still nursing at the government teet and the satellites STILL hadn't been launched.

How's that for return on you $100+ million investment?

Something has to be done. I'm not opposed to spending on the military, but we spend so much on so many ridiculous projects that its bankrupting the country.

People scream about potential increases in gov health care spending, but don't seem to bat an eye when we spend $350 MILLION on a single fighter jet - or worse, several hundred million on a program that goes no-where for more than a decade.

This is corporate welfare on a HUGE scale.

Will we ever get control? ... i doubt it. Something about the American pyche is at work here: spending money to kill people is "oo-raah" good; but try to spend some to help sick people and you get protests.

What the hell happened to people?

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

What is wrong with this country?

It was just a few years ago when the right was telling us that if you didn't support the president (in a time of war) you were NOT a patriot ... they told us it was our duty not to question warrantless wiretaps, torture, rendition and a host of other (at least) questionable activities taken on unilaterally by the executive branch...

Now, those same folks are telling us -- while we are still at war btw -- that they don't want their kids to watch a speech by the president ... a speech who's theme is "stay in school" and "help out in your local communities" ...

Has this country really gone this bat-shit crazy? I mean, we aren't supposed to question the violation of our 4th and 5th Amendment rights ... but we should teach our children that this president's words aren't to be trusted -- even when he speaks about something ALL of us (supposedly) agree on?

There truly is no hope for a people who are this screwed up... The politicization of EVERYTHING is at hand when a message like "stay in school" is seen as serving some evil, ulterior motive.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Opinion vs action...

Torture and Academic Freedom - Room for Debate Blog - NYTimes.com
The strongest legal criticism made of Professor Yoo and other Bush administration lawyers is not based on disagreement over policy or even morality. They were not implementing unjust laws; they were actively circumventing just laws.
The memos purporting to justify the harsh treatment of detainees could do so only by twisting the law beyond all recognition, and doing so in secret so that the flawed legal advice would not be challenged. When the memos were disclosed publicly, virtually no one could be found to defend them on the merits. The Justice Department itself was even forced to take the highly unusual step of withdrawing virtually all of the legal analysis it had issued only months beforehand.

That's the way I see it too: These opinions were kept secret in part because the administration knew they were using twisted logic to circumvent fairly straightforward law regarding the treatment of prisoners. While I support "academic freedom", and the rights of people to express their opinions, this situation is completely different. Here you have government officials using specious, at best, logic to justify practices we have publicly denounced abroad and are demonstrable harmful to America's principles.

Not only should he be fired, but he should be disbarred for using such tortured logic to justify criminal behavior by our government.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Science & Faith...

The Strange Case of Francis Collins | The Reason Project
There is an epidemic of scientific ignorance in the United States. This isn’t surprising, as very few scientific truths are self-evident, and many are deeply counterintuitive. It is by no means obvious that empty space has structure or that we share a common ancestor with both the housefly and the banana. It can be difficult to think like a scientist (even, we have begun to see, if one is a scientist). But it would seem that few things make thinking like a scientist more difficult than religion.

Monday, August 03, 2009


Op-Ed Columnist - Rewarding Bad Actors - NYTimes.com
But crashing the economy and fleecing the taxpayer aren’t Wall Street’s only sins. Even before the crisis and the bailouts, many financial-industry high-fliers made fortunes through activities that were worthless if not destructive from a social point of view.

And they’re still at it. Consider two recent news stories.

One involves the rise of high-speed trading: some institutions, including Goldman Sachs, have been using superfast computers to get the jump on other investors, buying or selling stocks a tiny fraction of a second before anyone else can react. Profits from high-frequency trading are one reason Goldman is earning record profits and likely to pay record bonuses

This kind of activity simply must be stopped via regulation... Allowing a group of people to reap huge financial gain at the expense of others: while adding NOTHING to society -- used to be considered criminal behavior... Now we call it investment banking.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

The confused...

Conservatives confuse capitalism with the mechanisms of regulating a society for the common good of all citizens... The latter process usually referred to as politics.

Capitalism addresses markets: good and services... Somehow our elected officials believe there is a diminished role for leadership and stewardship of our SOCIETY ... things like education, etc. are left to the whims of the market and its demand for "lower prices" ... This is shear madness.

A perfect example is my state's budget (process): The majority Republican legislature is so adverse to a (temporary sales) tax increase that it is willing to further cut-funding to our already dismal education system... (ranked 48th or so our of the 50 states). What's even more discusting is that they seriously considered abdicating there responsibility as representatives and making the tax hike proposal a ballot measure...

Does anyone even know what "representative democracy" means anymore?

Friday, June 19, 2009

Oh, that good ol'e fashioned manufactured outrage...

If you're like me, right-wing fantasy occasionally shows up in your inbox masquerading as history... Well, that happened this morning when a very good friend forwarded me a msg.

As usual, the email does a good job at generating outrage at those liberals in government who have backed away from promises and are, in general, ruining our American way of life... If only the 'facts' they list were actually, well, facts.

This one is about Social Security; how democrats from Eisenhower to Carter & Clinton have systematically screwed the American people out of promises and benefits.

Of course, all it takes is a quick visit to the handy snopes site to debunk this stuff. But again, what good conservative worth his salt would want to confuse truth with a caricature of history?

Well, I've taken the time to respond, point-for-point, to the emails assertions. As you'll see, 99% of those points are outright wrong. Even the ones that have a modicum of truth to them cast the villains as the evil liberals. I take a bit of joy noting that it was Reagan who signed into law the legislation that started taxing SS annuities... the one item listed that is partially true.

Anyway, read for yourself. If you want more details, check out snopes and here the Office of the Chief Actuary, Social Security Administration, May 20, 1997. My research (if you can call looking at a couple of websites research) are in red.

If there is anyone out there that doesn't know this, this is an excellent visual presentation....Now it is too late to be angry, just remember who did this when you vote....

Thank you for sharing Social Security, How It Got Stolen with Our Social Security

Franklin Delano. Roosevelt
32nd. President, Democrat
Terms of Office March 4, 1933, to April 12, 1945
GOOD TO HERE ! Our Social Security
Franklin Delano. Roosevelt (Terms of Office March 4, 1933, to April 12, 1945), a Democrat, introduced the Social Security (FICA) Program.
He promised:
1.) That participation in the program would be completely voluntary,

FALSE: There was no provision in the Social Security Act of 1935 (nor has there ever been any provision) for the payment of Social Security payroll taxes to be voluntary. Since the inception of the Social Security program, the law has required that payroll taxes for persons working at jobs covered by Social Security "shall be collected by the employer of the taxpayer by deducting the amount of the tax from the wages as and when paid."

2.) That the participants would only have to pay 1% of the first $1,400 of their annual incomes into the program,

MOSTLY FALSE/misleading: Social Security taxes were never limited to the first $1,400 of annual income, nor was there any provision in the Social Security Act of 1935 to permanently fix the tax rate at 1%. The Social Security Act of 1935 set the original rate at 1% of the first $3,000 of annual income, with provisions to gradually increase that rate to 3% over the next twelve years.

3.) That the money the participants elected to put into the program would be deductible from their income for tax purposes each year,

FALSE: The original Social Security Act of 1935 specifically stated that Social Security payroll taxes were not to be allowed as income tax deductions. Social Security payroll taxes have never been deductible from income for tax purposes, either when the program was originally instituted or at any time since.

4.) That the money the participants put into the Independent 'Trust Fund' rather than into the General operating fund, and therefore, would only be used to fund the Social Security Retirement Program, and no other Government program, and ...

PARTIALLY FALSE: The Social Security Trust Fund was established in 1939 to receive monies collected for Social Security through payroll taxes. The monies in this fund are managed by the Department of the Treasury; they are not, nor have they ever been, put into the "general operating fund." However, the government can "invest" Social Security funds by lending them to itself, then spending that money on programs not related to Social Security. The government "pays back" this money when the Social Security program redeems the bonds - with interest. Every retirement fund works like this. You money does not sit in a bank, it is used by others and repayed (hopefully) with interest.

5.) That the annuity payments to the retirees would never be taxed as income.
Since many of us have paid into FICA for years and are now receiving a Social Security check every month -- and then finding that we are getting taxed on 85% of the money we paid to the Federal government to 'Put Away' -- you may be interested in the following:

PARTIALLY FALSE: It is true that Social Security benefits were not originally considered taxable income. However, that status was not due to any promise or act on the part of President Roosevelt, nor was it specified in the Social Security Act (or any other law); it was the result of a series of rulings by the Treasury Department in 1938 and 1941 that excluded Social Security benefits from federal income taxation. Those rulings were overriden by amendments to the Social Security act enacted in 1983.


Dwight David Eisenhower
34th. President, Republican,
Term Of Office: January 20, 1953 to January 20, 1961 Insert by Vincent Peter Render,

If I recall correctly, 1958 is the first year that Congress voted to remove funds from Social Security and put it into the General Fund for Congress to spend.
If I recall correctly, it was a democratically Controlled Congress.
From what I understand, Congress logic at that time was that there was so much money in Social Security Fund that it would never run out / be used up for the purpose it was intended / set aside for.

FALSE - a complete fabrication as far as I can tell. SS funds are INVESTED (oftentimes loaned to the gov). However, those investments (loans) pay interest and the trust fund as earned more than an average of 8% annually since 1960. The fact that the gov borrows against the trust fund (paying it interest) is no different than a company investing it's pension funds in stocks/bonds. This is another example of FALSE statements being used to stir-up the masses...

-------------WORSE STILL-----------------------------

Lyndon Baines Johnson 36th.President, Democrat
Term Of Office: November 22, 1963 to January 20, 1969

: Which Political Party took Social Security from the Independent 'Trust Fund' and put it into the General Fund so that Congress could spend it?

Answer: It was Lyndon B. Johnson (Democrat, Term Of Office: November 22, 1963 to January 20, 1969) and thedemocratically Controlled House and Senate.

SS funds are NOT part of the general fund... The requirements for how the Social Security Trust Fund is to be financed and invested have not changed since the fund's inception in 1939. The reference to Lyndon Johnson indicates that someone was probably confused by a change implemented at the end of the Johnson administration (1969) that altered how the fund was accounted for in the federal budget but did not change the actual operations of the fund itself.

Question: Which Political Party eliminated the income tax Deduction for Social Security (FICA) withholding?

Answer: The Democratic Party.

FALSE - Social Security withholding has never been deductible from income for tax purposes. The original Social Security Act of 1935 specifically stated that monies paid into Social Security via payroll taxes were not to be allowed as income tax deductions.
William Jefferson Clinton
(Bill Clinton)
42nd. President
Democrat Term of Office: January 20, 1993 to January 20, 2001 Albert Arnold Gore, Jr.
(Al Gore)
45th. Vice President
Democrat Term of Office: January 20, 1993 to January 20, 2001

Question: Which Political Party started taxing Social Security annuities?

Answer: The Democratic Party, with Albert Arnold Gore, Jr. (Al Gore) [Vice President Term of Office: January 20, 1993 to January 20, 2001] casting the 'tie-breaking' deciding vote as President of the Senate, while he was Vice President of the US

Not completely FALSE, but manipulated to make it look like dems did something 'bad'.

Prior to 1984, income derived from Social Security benefits was exempt from taxation. Amendments to the Social Security Act passed by Congress in 1983 allowed for 50% of Social Security benefits to be considered taxable income for taxpayers whose total income exceeded specified thresholds. Responsibility for this change cannot fairly be assigned to either political party. The idea originated with a proposal issued by the Greenspan Commission, which had been appointed by President Ronald Reagan, a Republican. The amendments were passed by a House of Representatives in which the Democrats held a clear majority of the seats (296‐166), but the proposed amendments received "Yea" votes from members of both parties, and they were signed into law by President Reagan.

James Earl Carter, Jr (Jimmy Carter)
39th. President, Democrat
= Term of Office: January 20, 1977 to January 20, 1981

Question: Which Political Party decided to start giving Annuity payments to immigrants?

Answer: That's right! James Earl Carter, Jr. (Jimmy Carter) (Democrat, Term of Office: January 20, 1977 to January 20, 1981) and the Democratic Party.
Immigrants moved into this country, and at age 65, began to receive Social Security payments! The Democratic Party gave these payments to them, even though they never paid a dime into it!

No one — whether he be a citizen, immigrant, or illegal alien — is eligible to collect Social Security benefits unless he (or someone else, such as a parent or spouse) has paid into the system. Someone has confused Social Security itself with Supplemental Security Income (SSI) — the latter is a federal welfare program "designed to help aged, blind, and disabled people, who have little or no income" by providing "cash to meet basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter." Immigrants can qualify for SSI benefits under certain conditions, but SSI is financed by general revenues and not Social Security taxes.


Then, after violating the original contract (FICA), the Democrats turn around and tell you that the Republicans want to take your Social Security away!
And the worst part about it is uninformed citizens believe it!
If enough people receive this, maybe a seed of Awareness will be planted and maybe changes will evolve... Maybe not, some Democrats are awfully sure of what isn't so. But it's worth a try. How many people can YOU send this to?
Actions speak louder than bumper stickers..
Apparently, this is being sent around a lot. Another example of right-wingers trying to re-write history to generate outrage. Kudos to my buddy who sent it to me so I could debunk this stuff... at least on this site.

Maybe pass the link to this blog entry around … of course, the truth never stood in the way of a good-ol'e conservative world-view. Still, pass it around. Who knows, maybe someone will actually read it.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Longing for a real opposition party...

Republican's simply no longer have a serious platform... And even real conservatives know it. Here's a post by Richard Posner, one of the most respected judges in the country ...

The Becker-Posner Blog: Is the Conservative Movement Losing Steam? Posner
By the end of the Clinton administration, I was content to celebrate the triumph of conservatism as I understood it, and had no desire for other than incremental changes in the economic and social structure of the United States. I saw no need for the estate tax to be abolished, marginal personal-income tax rates further reduced, the government shrunk, pragmatism in constitutional law jettisoned in favor of "originalism," the rights of gun owners enlarged, our military posture strengthened, the rise of homosexual rights resisted, or the role of religion in the public sphere expanded. All these became causes embraced by the new conservatism that crested with the reelection of Bush in 2004.
But that's about ALL that conservatism is about these days. There's nothing behind it. To quote the judge again:
the policies of the new conservatism are powered largely by emotion and religion and have for the most part weak intellectual groundings. That the policies are weak in conception, have largely failed in execution, and are political flops is therefore unsurprising. The major blows to conservatism, culminating in the election and programs of Obama, have been fourfold: the failure of military force to achieve U.S. foreign policy objectives; the inanity of trying to substitute will for intellect, as in the denial of global warming, the use of religious criteria in the selection of public officials, the neglect of management and expertise in government; a continued preoccupation with abortion; and fiscal incontinence in the form of massive budget deficits, the Medicare drug plan, excessive foreign borrowing, and asset-price inflation.
This is the legacy of neo-conservative leadership: it's brought us to where we find ourselves today. Bankrupt, largely illiterate but still belligerent.

Hopefully, it's not to late to find some type of reasoned opposition to balance the views of a democratic executive and legislative branch. But with the likes of Rush at the helm -- well, I doubt it.

Monday, April 27, 2009

FBI Interrogator: Torture doesn't work -- duh.

Op-Ed Contributor - My Tortured Decision - NYTimes.com
It is inaccurate, however, to say that Abu Zubaydah had been uncooperative. Along with another F.B.I. agent, and with several C.I.A. officers present, I questioned him from March to June 2002, before the harsh techniques were introduced later in August. Under traditional interrogation methods, he provided us with important actionable intelligence.

We discovered, for example, that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. Abu Zubaydah also told us about Jose Padilla, the so-called dirty bomber. This experience fit what I had found throughout my counterterrorism career: traditional interrogation techniques are successful in identifying operatives, uncovering plots and saving lives.

Defenders of these techniques have claimed that they got Abu Zubaydah to give up information leading to the capture of Ramzi bin al-Shibh, a top aide to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, and Mr. Padilla. This is false. The information that led to Mr. Shibh’s capture came primarily from a different terrorist operative who was interviewed using traditional methods. As for Mr. Padilla, the dates just don’t add up: the harsh techniques were approved in the memo of August 2002, Mr. Padilla had been arrested that May.

The idea of torture is wrong on so many levels it shouldn't even be an issue. Even if it did "work", it is still immoral and diametrically opposed to what America is supposed to stand for.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The spurned lover...

I can't improve on Bill Maher's words, so I won't try...

The GOP: divorced from reality - Los Angeles Times
Look, I get it, "real America." After an eight-year run of controlling the White House, Congress and the Supreme Court, this latest election has you feeling like a rejected husband. You've come home to find your things out on the front lawn -- or at least more things than you usually keep out on the front lawn. You're not ready to let go, but the country you love is moving on. And now you want to call it a whore and key its car.

That's what you are, the bitter divorced guy whose country has left him -- obsessing over it, haranguing it, blubbering one minute about how much you love it and vowing the next that if you cannot have it, nobody will.

But it's been almost 100 days, and your country is not coming back to you. She's found somebody new. And it's a black guy.

The healthy thing to do is to just get past it and learn to cherish the memories. You'll always have New Orleans and Abu Ghraib.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The values on the Right

We're told that the right represents the "moral majority" ... that they stand for traditional American values. Yea right: like that perennial favorite "value" of the right -- "the end justifies the means". It seems to be a recurring theme (think Nixon, Reagan).

I find myself dumb-founded at the reasoning used by the Republicans who say "enhanced interrogations kept us safe". Why do people consider such an argument even relevant let alone true?

I thought ethics and values spoke to what you do when no one is looking. If an enemy is willing to do heinous things to our citizens our response is a true test of those values. If you abandon the rule of law and our principles when its convenient, well -- were they really values? If our creeds and laws are only there for show -- well, we're worse than those who openly profess their violent goals.

Besides, even if we "only" used techniques like water-boarding and sleep deprivation, who wouldn't say what the interrogator wanted to hear? Especially after 183 sessions on the water board...

And even if torture did "keep us safe" -- well, what else can it help with? Maybe water boarding suspected murderers will coax them to admit their crimes. Maybe sleep deprivation will help someone remember the names of accomplices -- or at least of people he doesn't like. The possibilities are endless. All we need is another tough-on-crime republican in office.

We need a full investigation. I hope the justice department follows the trail wherever it leads... and I think it'll lead to the very top.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The dumb interviewing the evil... or Fox News

Ignorance was on display again today... Hannity interviewed Cheney. What could be better entertainment -- except that Fox News viewers actually believed it was a NEWS show...

More like bread and circuses...

Most (intelligent) people should have realized it was the witless interviewing the evil as soon as Sean Hannity accused Chavez of being a "dictator" ... News flash Sean: Hugo Chavez was elected ... thrice.

But facts like that can't get in the way of a good liberal bashing session. The fact that Obama shook his hand obviously means that our leader is ready to sell out our interests.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney told Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity that President Obama’s handshake with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez “was not helpful” and could lead “foes” of the U.S. to “think they're dealing with a weak president.”
Really? The VP is instrumental in authorizing torture of "enemy combatants" -- but that's not a hit on the US' image & influence with allies and enemies alike... But a handshake at a conference is detriment to those relationships?

I just can't imagine the bizzaro-world these people live in.

Maybe a little history: Nixon gave Premier Leonid Brezhnev a Cadillac during a visit in 1972. Was he an appeaser? Was Nixon undermining our relationship with the USSR by appearing weak to the leader of the "evil empire"?

Of course, Brezhnev WAS a dictator ... a man who blatantly threatened the US with nuclear annihilation.

And then there was Mao... More weakness! Those damn diplomats...

Reagan - the god of the republican party, sold weapons to Iran ... but somehow he's remembered as the "tough" leader.

Lets not forget that Dick Cheney was an advocate for our "ally in the war on terror" -- the Pakistani's and their dictator Musharraf... Yea right, allies. The Pakistani intelligence service has and still IS more closely allied with the Islamists in the western frontier than the West -- or even the Pakistani government.

I don't know if the current hyperbole is a result of the dumbing-down of the US population -- or if it's purely the result of the read meat Fox News and their cohorts spew into the willing ears of the faux-patriots who put flag-waving and belligerent chants above a basic understanding of the rule of law.

(ah - that run-on felt good.)

Maybe its a LOT of both...

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Tax hysteria...

Tax Revolts: Some Succeed, Most Don’t - Room for Debate Blog - NYTimes.com
Starting with the election of Ronald Reagan, conservatives have led an effort to vilify the income tax — which is reflected in the polls. However, what is often forgotten is that Reagan raised taxes twice (in 1982 and in 1986 on corporations). The modern Republican tax protest movement really only took off after George Bush Sr. broke his “no new taxes” pledge in 1991 and lost his re-election bid in 1992 (for unrelated reasons). Subsequently it became hard for Republicans to raise taxes even in the face of two unexpected wars and a huge budget deficit.

Most people forget that income taxes were about 10 points higher than today during most of his administration ... and that Reagan actually RAISED taxes -- twice.

Maybe the news outlets who claims to "report and let you decide" ... is really doing more news stimulation and creation than reporting...

Friday, April 17, 2009

Income gap...

Income Gaps Hit Record Levels In 2006, New Data Show — Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
New data from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) show that in 2006, the top 1 percent of households had a larger share of the nation’s after-tax income, and the middle and bottom fifths of households had smaller shares, than in any year since 1979, the first year the CBO data cover. As a result, the gaps in after-tax incomes between households in the top 1 percent and those in the middle and bottom fifths were the widest on record.

Monday, April 06, 2009

About time...

Gates: Scrap F-22 Jet, President's New Helicopter : NPR
Secretary Robert Gates on Monday recommended halting production of the F-22 fighter jet and scrapping a new helicopter for the president as he outlined deep cuts to many of the military's biggest weapons programs.

Gates said his $534 billion budget proposal represents a "fundamental overhaul" in defense acquisition and reflects a shift in priorities from fighting conventional wars to the newer threats U.S. forces face from insurgents in places such as Afghanistan.
This country spends far to much on sophisticated weapon systems...

The men behind the madness...

A Rich Education for Summers (After Harvard) - NYTimes.com
Lawrence H. Summers plays down his stint in the hedge fund business as a mere part-time job — but the financial and intellectual rewards that he gained there would make even most full-time workers envious.

The status quo -- Summers, Rubin, Geithner and the rest are the financial 'geniuses' responsible for creating this mess... and now they are supposed to get us out of it?

These people drink their own Kool-aid ... They beleive these "financial markets" simply need to be recapitalized. The real solution? Most of them don't even need to exist.

Sure, we need capital markets to raise money to BUILD THINGS... to invest in research... to fund entrepeneurs who actually increase our standard of living by making 'stuff' ...

But most of these markets exist for their own sake: to enrich other bankers and investors who's sole function is life is pushing piles of money around -- like some sick game of musical chairs where (win or lose) you take your cut.

Finance is a necessary evil. But these people beleive their own propaganda. Read DeSantis' letter of resignation...It oozes with the kind of self-righteous nonsense that only a person WHO ACTUALLY BELIEVES pushing piles of money around in circles EARNS HIM $760+ MILLION per year.

Until society and its people realize this is criminal insanity things won't get better...

Friday, April 03, 2009

Faith's fallacy

It is in fact because scientists are constantly trying to falsify their own claims that we can have a reasonable degree of confidence in the ones that we have not yet managed to falsify. (Ask any responsible scientist what it would take to make her give up her beliefs about any part of the world, and she will be able to tell you. Ask a typical religious believer what it would take to convince him that, say, Jesus was not the son of God, and you will succeed at most in irritating him—you will almost certainly get no answer at all.)

Faith, then, has a highly unfortunate double consequence: It increases one's confidence in one's beliefs, while simultaneously decreasing one's grounds for confidence. Pace Micklethwait and Wooldridge, what faith provides is not in fact certainty, but rather the feeling of certainty.


Thursday, March 05, 2009

Beyond sick...

World Briefing - The Americas - Brazil - 9-Year-Old Has Abortion Despite Church’s Objections - NYTimes.com
ABORTION A 9-year-old girl who was carrying twins, and whose stepfather is suspected of raping her, underwent an abortion on Wednesday despite complaints from Brazil’s Roman Catholic Church. The stepfather has been jailed since last week, the police said. Abortion is illegal in Brazil, the country with the most Roman Catholics, but judges can make exceptions if the mother’s life is in danger or the fetus has no chance of survival.

What can you say? How can you take a horrid situation and make it worse? Include the church....

Monday, February 16, 2009

Of course you are to blame...

Deregulation IS to blame for this crisis.

We've been slowly turning the country over to a bunch of white, Ivy league educated (and I use the term loosely, studying "banking" at college is akin to studying basket-weaving) morons...

Since the 80's banks and republicans/conservatives have been clamoring for the repeal of depression era laws that compartmentalize commercial banking, investment banking and insurance. The last of those laws fell in 1999 with the "Commodity Futures Modernization Act" -- which literally made it legal for banks to create ANY new type of investment vehicle they wanted -- and assured that they would be outside government regulation. Clinton got to sign that cap-stone into law.

How else could we have ended up with a CDS market which traded more than $42 TRILLION dollars worth of these new, unregulated securities. ... Along with the demand for "bundled" mortgages that underlie all the chaos.

Capitalism must be saved from its own excesses... It functions on greed -- and greed run amok ALWAYS leads to disaster.

Clinton Says Don't Blame Him for the Economic Crisis
The magazine's story, which apportioned blame widely between such figures as Countrywide co-founder Angelo Mozilo, former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, Lehman Brothers CEO Dick Fuld and President George W. Bush, zeroed in on two specific economic policy decisions made during the Clinton administration. Clinton ushered out the Glass-Steagall Act, which for decades had separated commercial and investment banking, and signed the Commodity Futures Modernization Act - which exempted all derivatives, including the now-notorious credit-default swaps, from federal regulation. His administration also loosened housing rules, which added pressure on banks to lend in low-income neighborhoods.

"None of it was an endorsement of permissive lending and risk-taking," the magazine concluded. "But if you believe deregulation is to blame for our troubles, then Clinton earned a share too."

Republican double-speak

Stimulus bill, foreclosure aid tops Obama agenda
Gibbs said the president had taken "unprecedented" steps in a bipartisan effort to include Republicans in the legislative process. But Sen. John McCain was highly critical, declaring the stimulus would create what he called "generational theft" — huge federal deficits for years to come.

McCain, who lost the presidential race to Obama, said the Democrat had backtracked on promises of bipartisanship and was off to a bad start. "Let's start over now and sit down together," McCain said.

Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., put it more bluntly: "If this is going to be bipartisanship, the country's screwed."

Where were McCain and Graham when Bush was spending 100's of billion to rebuilt a foreign country?

They were cheer-leading...

Where were they when bankers were robbing the country blind ...

They were standing by saying "this is how capitalism works" ... "The economy isn't really that bad"...

Why does ANYONE listen to these obvious buffoons... The shouldn't be on television, they should be in prison.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Not looking to good for the right...

State of the States: Political Party Affiliation
PRINCETON, NJ -- An analysis of Gallup Poll Daily tracking data from 2008 finds Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Hawaii to be the most Democratic states in the nation, along with the District of Columbia. Utah and Wyoming are the most Republican states.


Saturday, January 24, 2009

Return to the rule-of-law

A president swears to uphold the Constitution ... not to "keep us safe" ... We may finally be returning to that...

Bush's 'War' On Terror Comes to a Sudden End
President Obama yesterday eliminated the most controversial tools employed by his predecessor against terrorism suspects. With the stroke of his pen, he effectively declared an end to the "war on terror," as President George W. Bush had defined it, signaling to the world that the reach of the U.S. government in battling its enemies will not be limitless.

While Obama says he has no plans to diminish counterterrorism operations abroad, the notion that a president can circumvent long-standing U.S. laws simply by declaring war was halted by executive order in the Oval Office.

Key components of the secret structure developed under Bush are being swept away: The military's Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, facility, where the rights of habeas corpus and due process had been denied detainees, will close, and the CIA is now prohibited from maintaining its own overseas prisons. And in a broad swipe at the Bush administration's lawyers, Obama nullified every legal order and opinion on interrogations issued by any lawyer in the executive branch after Sept. 11, 2001.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


When you're talking, you're usually not shooting at at other...

At least its a start...

Fast start for Obama at home and abroad - Yahoo! News
At the start of his first full day as president, Obama spent a few poignant moments alone in the Oval Office, reading a private letter left for him by his predecessor, when he ceded power on Tuesday.

Then, flexing his diplomatic muscles in the Middle East for the first time, Obama telephoned Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and King Abdullah II of Jordan.

Obama "used this opportunity on his first day in office to communicate his commitment to active engagement in pursuit of Arab-Israeli peace from the beginning of his term," his spokesman Robert Gibbs said in a statement.

A new day

Finally, we're free of the incompetence that's governed for the last 8 years. If nothing else it was refreshing and inspirational to hear someone call the citizens of this country to service -- to speak with honesty about the hard road ahead.

Just consider Obama's words about our obligations to "pitch-in" locally ... and how we'll all need to rededicate ourselves to the common good -- contrasted with Bush's call to (literally) "go shopping, take the family to Disney World" after the 9/11 attacks.

It may be a small gesture, but attempting to reform the appearance (and reality) of conflicts of interest in Washington is welcome news after the Tom Delay years (where K street lobbyists were encouraged to draft laws themselves)

Obama's first day: Pay freeze, lobbying rules - White House- msnbc.com
Obama's new lobbying rules will not only ban aides from trying to influence the administration when they leave his staff. Those already hired will be banned from working on matters they have previously lobbied on, or to approach agencies that they once targeted.

The rules also ban lobbyists from giving gifts of any size to any member of his administration. It wasn't immediately clear whether the ban would include the traditional "previous relationships" clause, allowing gifts from friends or associates with which an employee comes in with strong ties.

The new rules also require that anyone who leaves his administration is not allowed to try to influence former friends and colleagues for at least two years. Obama is requiring all staff to attend to an ethics briefing like one he said he attended last week.

It's not likely to get better for the average Joe anytime soon -- but at least we have motivated, intelligent leadership... And that's about all you can ask for in a situation like this...

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Democracy, terrorism, government - oh my...

It's been a while since I've posted -- but I just read this interesting article by Aslan. I haven't come to any conclusions yet -- but here are some thoughts.

In Defense of the Bush Doctrine - The Daily Beast

The premise is that democratization usually leads to a moderation of extremism... that by giving (via elections) radical movements a place at the table they usually become more moderate.

I'm not convinced.
Let us imagine for a moment what would have happened had Hamas been allowed to take its rightful place, albeit with certain restrictions and limitations, as the freely elected government in Palestine. Let us imagine the State Department had not financed and supervised the political campaign of Fatah, “down to the choice of backdrop color for the podium where Mr. Abbas was to proclaim victory,” as a recent column in the Christian Science Monitor claims.

Let us imagine that the United States and Israel had not banned together to blockade Gaza in an attempt to “starve the [new] Palestinian Authority of money and international connections,” as Steven Erlanger of The New York Times reported, “[so] that Palestinians will be so unhappy with life under Hamas that they will return to office a reformed and chastened Fatah movement.” Is it inconceivable that Hamas would have undergone a transformation similar to that of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the AKP in Turkey, or, for that matter, Fatah itself, which was designated a terrorist entity until it became an internationally recognized political entity (and ally to the U.S. and Israel) ? Had Hamas been given the opportunity to govern and fail (as it probably would have), would it still enjoy the popular support it receives from Palestinians? Or would the people have turned against it in favor of a less ideological, more accommodating, and more effective political party—say, Fatah—much as Fatah’s egregious failures turned the Palestinian people toward Hamas? It is often said that elections do not a democracy make. True enough. However, two consecutive elections, particularly in a place like Palestine, would have been a pretty good start.
I think that is a good point. But real democracy isn't based simply on popular election to government. It depends even more on institutions that guarentee the rights of the individual and minorities. Without those institutions - and the rights they protect - democratically elected governments are not much more than popular tyrants... tyrants that enforce the will of the majority on the minority.

These groups - at their core - expose fundamentalist principles that leave no room for the non-believer.
The simple fact is that democracy cannot take root in the Middle East without the participation of parties like Hamas and Hezbollah. So rather than making it impossible for the peoples of the Middle East to elect such groups into power, perhaps we should try giving them a reason not to.
I agree - these groups capture a significant part of the sentiments of the people in the region: its impossible to govern - or come to any kind of lasting agreement - without including them. I just don't know how you do that when many of their positions are irrational.